Chez Aunty Libe chow lunch report
Seven intrepid chowhounds gathered for lunch at this West African restaurant (billing itself as "Senegambian") for lunch. To sum up: good food and relaxed service*. With barely a dozen items on the menu, we were able to sample a big chunk of it.
-Thiebou Dieun and Thieobou Yapp: These dishes were interesting mainly for the dirty, broken rice and vegetables that accompanied them.
-Yassa Chicken: A very flavorful chicken cooked in a marinade of lemon and onions.
-Feuille De Manioc (casava leaf stew): I like this dish quite a bit. It had the appearance and texture of creamed spinach. But spinach isn't this earthy or nutty. There were also bits of oxtail in here for a nice complement.
-Dibi (grilled lamb): Very flavorful lamb, a bit on the dry side.
-Grilled Fish: This was ok. The fish was nicely cooked, but overall lacking in much flavor.
-Thiackry: I don't think I can improve on Jim Zurer's description of this dessert as "liquid cheesecake". (btw, that's a good thing)
They were out of the Maffe, a peanut stew that I sampled on a previous visit, which as I recall was very tasty.
As a condiment, we also received a small bowl of "Jamaican pepper", which as far as I could tell was simply liquified scotch bonnet peppers -- all heat. If taken directly, consult your physician immediately. Otherwise, mix a very small amount (no more than a teaspoon for a full dish) thoroughly into your dish, and it provides a very nice background note of heat. It's just *one* note, but it's a very good one.
CAL is not completely cheap eats. Cost per person ended up around $19. Mains are all between $10-14, although any dish contains more than enough food for a meal.
* by "relaxed" I mean: it took an hour to get our food. I wasn't really surprised by this, since it seems to the common denominator of my experience in African restaurants of various ethnicities in this city. However, you should choose something else if you're looking for a quick lunch.
Chez Aunty Libe
6115 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20011
Good job on the report. I liked the lamb the best for the flavor, even though it was a bit dry. And all the broken rice - very tasty.
The drinks were interesting too - ginger root and sorrel. I liked the sorrel better but others liked the ginger better. Chaque a son gout.
The bill would have been less had we not been charged for 7 desserts, when all we needed was one.
I think the nutty taste in the feuille de manioc came from groundnuts (peanuts).
I have had several versions of thiebou dieun, from upscale hotel restaurant to hole-in-the-wall restaurant to homemade. This one was more in line with the hotel restaurant in that the fish component was a piece, rather than bits incorporated into a more stew-like dish. I have found the other versions more tasty, but perhaps in a way that may not be quite so accessible for some people. That may be due to the use (in Senegal, not the restaurant) of fishier-tasting fish, the use of fish innards, or the use of dried fish--or a combination of all three.
I was surprised not to see okra in some of these dishes but certainly didn't mind it's non-appearance, as it's not my favorite vegetable.
We also sampled two drinks: bissap juice, a tart fruit punchish drink made from sorrel flowers, and ginger, which was pleasantly ginger-flavored and not overtly biting as ginger could be. I liked them both.
It was my 'fault' you didn't get your okra fix. The kandja soup we didn't order is fish and beef in an okra base. I've had it here before. You know how supposedly there are ways of cooking okra to make it less slimy? Well, they don't use those methods at Chez Aunty Libe. If you want to try it, you're just going to have to come here on your own.
Well, actually, as I said above, okra isn't my favorite vegetable, anyway. Particularly since there is only one way it isn't slimy: perfectly fried.
I was only commenting that when I was in Senegal, it turned up in a bunch of stew-type dishes, including, as I recall, home-cooked thiebou dieun.
The palm oil in that soup isn't all that healthy, either, so I suppose we were better off without it.
I think mustard was one of the main flavors also in the yassa chicken, and probably found its way into the lamb ribs (dibil), which were mighty tasty. I was impressed with the overall quality. As a consumer note, the one Africa expert with us thought the food average, though I have a student I work with who spent a semester in Senegal and thinks highly of the place.